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Friday, September 14, 2007

Fabregas is a more effective player than Scholes. The statistical analysis backs it up

By 1970’s Gooner

Everybody, including Wenger, is comparing Fabregas with Scholes.

“The frame, intelligence in the game, passing ability and knowing when to go into the box. He is only 20 and people forget that." Said Wenger in his Portsmouth post match conference.

They are indeed similar players. They both play in central midfield and they are both playmakers of their respective sides. Excellent football players.

But Fabregas is a better footballer for Arsenal than Scholes is for Manchester United. A very bold statement you might say especially coming from a very biased Arsenal supporter.

Well, is it however?

Because they occupy the most influential parts of the pitch, midfielders are more likely to influence the outcome of a match than other positions, especially if they have vision for a good pass or ability to score.

It is generally accepted that outstanding midfielders need to posses a number of attributes on top of fitness: technique and ball skills, tackling, retaining possession and distribution, shooting and scoring as well.

We have managed, with great difficulty, to find statistical data for each player’s performance on most of the above attributes. They are presented in the table at the end of this article.

Now on which of those do you think Scholes is better than Fabregas?

Technique and ball skills

I would place Fabregas above Scholes in this area. Scholes is more of an energetic type of player who possesses average technique and ball skills. And by average I don’t mean that he is not good at it. He is average and Fabregas is above average.

Scholes does tend to release the ball much earlier than Fabregas (mainly due to Man Utd’s style of play) so we don’t have a chance to fully assess his ball skills under the pressure of an opponent sticking close to him while he is running with the ball.

You would not however classify him as a technical player. Certainly not at the same level as Fabregas who, when on the ball, gives you the illusion that time stands still.

He has the flair to manipulate the ball, shield it, run with it and release it to the right player at the appropriate time.

Usually, as is often said, fouling you is one of the better compliments that an opponent will give you.

During last season Fabregas was fouled 82 times and Scholes only 34. This is continuing this season with the respective stats being 7 against 2.

Tackling

So far there is not much to choose between them in terms of tackling.

12 tackles won for Scholes against 10 for Cesc with the latter having played a game less this season (I could not find data for the total number of tackles per player; only successful tackles!)

For the record Reo Cocker of Aston Villa has the most tackles won so far, 25 with a success rate of 72% whereas Bikey of Reading has a 90% success rate but with only 21 tackles won.

Tackling: 2007/08 season

Tacklers Team Tackles Success rate

Reo-Coker Aston Villa 25, 72%
Jenas Tottenham 24, 71%
Bikey Reading 21, 90%
Boateng Middlesbrough 20, 85%
Malbranque Tottenham 20, 70%

Source: Skysports.com (Opta stats)

In terms of commitment both Scholes and Cesc seem to concede the same number of fouls (73 for Scholes vs 78 for Fabregas last season) so there does not seem to be a great deal of difference on this count.

Fabregas has improved a lot this season and the increase in his body weight (by a few kilos apparently) has certainly added steel to his tackles. A recent example of course that tackle on Repka in Prague.

On the other hand Scholes’ style is not really that of a strong or indeed effective tackler.

Proof is the clumsiness of his tackles and the red and yellow cards he receives as a result.

The stats bear this out; 2 red cards and 12 yellows for Scholes last season to no red cards and 9 yellows for Fabregas.

Distribution

Effectiveness in the distribution of the ball can to my mind be measured by the number of passes and their accuracy.

However distribution effectiveness should also take into account the number of assists for each player.

Apart from actually scoring, a goal assist is the most important “distribution” a midfield player can make.

Scholes is way ahead of Fabregas on the distribution stakes.

He is by far the Premier League’s top passer so far this season with 409 and a pass accuracy of 89%.

Passing: 2007/08 season

Passers Team Passes Accuracy

Scholes Man Utd 409, 89%
Ferdinand Man Utd 310, 90%
Vidic Man Utd 303, 87%
Lampard Chelsea 259, 86%
Hamann Man City 246, 83%

Source: Skysports.com (Opta stats)

Fabregas on the other hand is nowhere near Scholes on this count. His count is 216 passes with a success rate of 79%. If we take into account games played, Scholes puts together 82 passes per game to 54 for Fabregas.

Again, Scholes does tend to release the ball much earlier than Fabregas and also makes a lot of short passes where accuracy is relatively easier to achieve.

It’s not a surprise that the next two players behind Scholes in the table above are both central defenders who do have a tendency to pass the ball short and usually to each other or to the midfielders.

On the goal assists however Fabregas is way ahead with 2 so far this season against none from Scholes; and before you say that the sample is too small look at the stats for last season: 16 assists for Cesc and only 3 for Scholes.

Fabregas is therefore by far the more effective passer of the ball of the two even if Scholes passes the ball more often.

Goal scoring ability

It’s all very well to possess all the above attributes but if a player can’t chip in with the goals he will never be the complete midfielder.

Scholes has the upper hand with 7 goals scored during Manchester United’s title wining season.

Fabregas scored 4 which considering Arsenal’s problems last season is not such a bad record when placed against Scholes’.

This season Fabregas is ahead with 2 against 1 (in the Premier League).

What is interesting however is the number of goal attempts.

Last season Cesc had more than twice the number of shots on goal with 59 vs 27. This is continuing this season with 5 against 3.

So on the goals count Fabregas is closing the (small) gap that was there last season.

Conclusion

I would consider Fabregas a more effective player than Scholes.

He has better technique and ball skills (although this, I concede, can only be a personal opinion), he is a more effective passer of the ball due to his far superior number of goal assists , tackles as effectively as Scholes and is now scoring at the same rate as Scholes.



Fabregas Vs Scholes: Vital Statistics 2007/08 Vs 2006/07

The first column corresponds to the 2007/08 Premier League season and the second column to the 2006/07 season in all competitions. Blank columns indicate lack of data.


Francesc Fabregas
________________________________________
Born: 04.05.1987
Birthplace: Arenys de Mar
Height:180 cm
Weight: 76 kg
Position: Midfielder

________________________________________
Fouls committed 3, 78
Fouls suffered 7, 82
Assists 2, 16
Attempts created 8,
Won contest 3,
Total passes 216,
Red Card 0, 0
Accurate Passes 170,
Clean Sheet 1,
Won Tackles 10,
Scoring attempts 12, 99
Good high claims 0,
On target attempts 6, 59
Goals 2, 4
Yellow Card 1, 9
Minutes played 360,
Total contest 4,
Clearance 7,




Paul Scholes
________________________________________
Born: 16.11.1974
Birthplace: Salford
Height:170 cm
Weight: 69 kg
Position: Midfielder

________________________________________

Fouls 5, 73
Fouls suffered 2, 34
Assists 0, 3
Attempts created 9,
Won contest 0,
Total passes 409,
Red Card 0, 2
Accurate Passes 363,
Clean Sheet 3,
Won Tackles 12,
Scoring attempts 12, 42
Good high claims 0,
On target attempts 3, 27
Goals 1, 7
Yellow Card 0, 12
Minutes played 450,
Total contest 3,
Clearance 1,



Sources: ESPN, Daily Telegraph

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting analysis.
I agree that it is effectiveness in terms of goals and assists as well as tackles that define a modern midfielder. And this analysis shows that Fabregas is indeed very efective.

Frichie said...

I agree, if you look at the stats Scholes' 409 passes reflect his style of play, as you quite rightly highlight Scholes doesnt have a high level of on the ball technique being able to hold the ball and dribble with it, his game is based on short pass and move if he is under pressure, receive the ball again once he is in space and then pass again. All being very uneffective because he is not holding ground, he relenquishes it to find open space. Cesc however will receive the ball, and hold his ground, draw in the opposing player(s), protect the ball and release it to another open player. But if Fabregas can learn from Scholes as to where he needs to be to score goals, then he will be awesome!

dave said...

I agree with Frichie,

Scholes does not have the skill to hold the ball and release it in a meaningful way.
Also Cesc has started scoring now and if you look at his high number of goal attempts last season you will see that once he gets more accurate with his shots he will far outpace Scholes; and any other midfielder come to that.

Anonymous said...

This is an excellent analysis. It confirms in numbers what all of us strongly suspected

the wall said...

yes i agree cesc is a very good player but to compare him and say he is better than the legendary paul scholes is absurd. stats dont lie but its how you manipulate stats to favour cesc.

how can you say cesc scoring 4 goals due to arsenal's problem is comparable with scholes' 7. so, this season man utd has injury problems, does that makes scholes' 1 goal equal and comparable to cesc's 3 goals? nope.

also, when he was in his peak, scholes was scoring 20 goals a season..of cuz cesc has yet to reach his peak so we cant argue on that issue.

im also very surprised you didnt bring out trophy count to compare. sure, cesc has a good 12-15 yrs of football left in him but can you really see arsenal winning the treble? or even the champion's league? yes, arsenal reached the final but reaching and winning are two totally different issue.

last but not least, you are comparing a player who is above 30 with his peak behind him to a bright youngster of 20 with his best years to come. did scholes achieve all this when he was 20? nope. can cesc achieve more than scholes? only time will tell.

all in all, im bacing paul scholes ahead of cesc. yes im a man utd fan. yes im biased. but you'll be lying if u said you are not biased. but that doesnt take away the fact that CESC FABREGAS is a great player with a great future ahead of him.

Anonymous said...

is this a serious artical?? im a biased man utd fan admittedly. However, to me, its clear that the author of the above doesnt watch scholes very often. i have a number of points to make:

1) early distribution (ie. 1 or 2 touch) is the sign of a quality player. Its requires vision/awareness and TECHNIQUE.

2) Scholes is prob the most accurate long range passer in the premiership. Every game he picks 40/50/60 yard accurate passes, and maintains his record of accurate passes.

3) Look at scholes volley against villa last season. Utd players and fergie came out & said he scores those all the time in training. TECHNIQUE??

4) His volley from a corner against bradford all those years ago. Technique??

5) His killer (cheeky) pass against AC MILAN last season to set up rooneys equaliser. (Time on the ball??) Technique??

6)Look at scholes goals over the years. his finishing ability is undoubted.

7)Scholes is in his 30's. When cesc is that age he wont be able to break in2 the box as often. Scholes is operating from deeper nowadays.

8) cesc better under pressure?? 1 of scholes main attributes is remaining calm under pressure and turning out of trouble.

Anonymous said...

... also...

the comment regarding assists. to cite this as evidence of cesc
superiority is meaningless.

An assist is beyond the control of either cesc or scholes. a defence splitting pass may be worldclass, but if the striker misses the open goal this wont be recorded as favourable to the potential assistor!

consider this, scholes passes the ball to ronaldo on the half wayline. ron skins 3 players and scores. scholes gets an assist.

alternatively, cesc skins 3 men, and splits the defence with a great pass, and gilberto skews the shot wide.

scholes would show up statistically better than cesc in this situation. fair??

scholes has passed utd to many titles and trophys.

that is a challenge cesc will have to meet throughout his forthcomming career.

Anonymous said...

This article is immediately void due to the author writing "Scholes isn't a technical player". I don't think I've read such utter nonsense before.

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Anonymous said...

The only thing Fabregas has on Scholes is tackeling, in all other areas scholes literally crushes Fabregas. Consider this, Zidane, Henry, Vieira among others have listen Scholes as the best midfielder of this generation. If Fabregas goes through life achieving even half of what Scholes has achieved he can be a legend, thats how good Scholes is.

Now for the author, the fact that u said Scholes isnt technical can mean you have never seen him play or you know NOTHING about football, not to mention comparing a 34 year old to a 20 year old player is absurd

Bermundo said...

This is an excellent analysis. It confirms in numbers what all of us strongly suspected

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